Last fall, I spent four months at a semester program for juniors in high school: The Mountain School. I applied on a whim. Hikes, art, and fields of corn? Sounded like fun to me!
Back in August, I hugged my parents goodbye. “See you in December!” I said.
My parents nodded. They were nervous—I could tell. My dad’s brow furrowed as he held me at arms length. My mom’s voice shook as she said, “You’re going to be just fine.”
With a final wide-eyed glance, I stepped through the door of my new home.
Why were my parents nervous? Because they know me. They know that I have trouble reaching out. They know that I’m shy. I’m the Quiet Girl, who makes her best friends slowly.
The first few weeks were tough. I walked around campus with a fake smile plastered on my face. I made half-hearted small talk at meals, and I cried in the shower. For me, being around people all the time was more exhausting than a five-mile race. I was out of my comfort zone, and I couldn’t go back.
On the third week, I spent two hours harvesting corn with one of my classmates. My mood matched the darkening sky. I wanted to be alone. Ten minutes passed. “Where are you from again?”
Twenty minutes passed. “How many siblings do you have?”
After thirty minutes of mindless dialogue, my classmate said the four best words in the English language: I love Harry Potter. We spent the rest of the day chattering over magic wands, snowy owls, and enchanted castles.
I started to relax. A few bricks fell down from my wall of timidity. I started to talk. A few more bricks fell. I started to reach out. The bricks fell and fell and fell. By the end of the semester, I was unrecognizable. I ran through the dining hall, I jumped on the couches, I sang, and I shouted.
That’s the wonderful thing about a comfort zone: once you’re out of it, it doesn’t take long to find a new normal. When I arrived, people exhausted me. When I left, I couldn’t function without them.